Indian gaming in California under fire

Dec 16, 2002 10:50 PM

   Interior Secretary Gale Norton said last week that the benefits of tribal casinos will be undermined unless there is effective regulation.

   “As we have seen with the Time magazine articles recently, there are challenges and dangers to viable gaming,” Norton said last week from Washington, D.C.

   The National Indian Gaming Commission, consisting of a 63-member committee, are charged with regulating more than 300 tribal gaming operations that produced more than $13 billion last year.

   The Time cover story reported that the commission has yet to discover a single case of corruption in tribal gaming despite numerous complaints from tribal members.

   “Our responsibility is to enforce the law,” Norton said. “The law gives some authority to the commission and some to the department. Working together with new commission members, we will enforce the law.”

   The 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act established the commission to oversee reservation gambling.

   Philip Hogan, sworn in as the commission’s new chairman, said the recent national publicity about Indian gaming problems will help the group do a better job.

   “If the boat needs rocking, we’re not going to shy away from it,” Hogan said.

   The magazine piece argues that only a relatively few Indians have gained financially from gaming, while scores of wealthy non-Indian investors have benefited.

   Ameristar license renewed

   The Missouri Gaming Commission voted unanimously last Thursday to renew Ameristar Casino’s licenses to operate casinos in St. Charles and Kansas City.

   In the 12 months ending Sept. 30, the two casinos had adjusted gross receipts of $337.5 million. The Las Vegas-based Ameristar calculated its total investment in Missouri at $729 million, according to Troy Stremming, the company’s vice president for legal and regulatory affairs.

   The Commission is planning to review proposals for a new casino in the St. Louis area during the first three months of next year, according to a St. Louis Post Dispatch report.

   Pyramid a casino?

   An Indian tribe wants to turn the Pyramid in Memphis into a hotel and casino.

   The Pyramid, former home to the NBA Memphis Grizzles, could draw a possible income of $5 to 15 million a year. However, the plan faces serious obstacles.

   The federal government only allows for gambling on Indian land and only if there are active tribes. Also, gambling is illegal in Tennessee

   The University of Memphis is considering moving out of the Pyramid and into the new arena.

   Michigan backs casino

   The Michigan Senate voted 21-14 to approve the compact to build a tribal casino in Allegan County.

   The House earlier approved the compact by a 58-47 margin and encouraged Gov. John Engler to set up a contract for a casino with the Pottawatomi Indians.

   A casino in Allegan County’s Wayland area would offer more than 4,300 jobs, according to tribal chairman D.K. Sprague. The Holland (Mich.) Sentinel reports that the tribe expects 2.9 million customers a year, with spending at about $31.2 million in the area.

   ALSO: The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that American Indian gaming revenue in California could surpass Nevada’s within a decade and could be devastating to the state’s casino industry”¦Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts is on the verge of signing a contract with the village of Crestwood (Ill.) as part of an effort by eight south Chicago suburbs to bring the state’s only available riverboat casino license to the Southland.